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Around The Grange
The Grange and the Beehive Collective of Machias, Maine

By Kelly Benjamin, Spot.us Radio Documentary (9/1/11)

  SEPTEMBER 8, 2011 --

Maine has seen it's share of artist collectives throughout the decades, but there is one that is internationally recognized for their educational, political, and environmental graphic campaigns AND renowned locally for restoring a landmark Grange Movement building and creating a vibrant community center in economically depressed rural Maine. The Beehive Collective of Machias have an inspirational story to tell about a decade long grassroots, collaborative, anti-copyright art campaign, about years touring the country using art to educate about social justice, globalization, and colonialism, and about the challenges of the community in the economically depressed rural town of Machias, Maine.

This project will involve interviews with members of the Beehive Collective, examinations of thier elaborate art work revolving around the themes of social justice, the environment, globalization, and colonialism, and thier relationship with the historic Grange populist farmers movement of the 19th century that still exists in the community in Machias, Maine

Born out of the anti-globalization protests in Seattle in 1999, the Beehive Collective is a long running radical social justice graphic arts collective. Their work involves intricate, moving visual storytelling about the complex and overwhelming issues our society is facing. Their mural/poster campaigns (distributed worldwide) have been hailed by activists, teachers, and indigenous groups for highlighting neglected issues around neo-liberalism, corporate globalization, colonialism, biotechnology, species extinction, fossil fuel exploitation, and climate change. The collective is volunteer run, operates via consensus, and, though members come and go, tends to be majority female. One of the most fascinating and inspiring aspects of the story is their revitalization of the Machias Valley Grange Hall, a landmark building in rural Maine, and then turning it over to the community as a public meeting house/community center. 

The Grangers (or the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry) were a radical secret order founded in the 1860s that stood up for the rights of agricultural workers and operated on anti-banker and pro-cooperative labor principles. Conservatives labeled their pro-farmer movement agrarian communists (Sound familiar?). There are hundreds of Grange Halls still scattered around New England today-some with still functioning chapters. The Beehive Collective has brought one local Granger chapter back to life and I intend to tell that story via a half hour long (possibly longer) radio documentary. This is an amazing story about the power of art, community, and global activism. It needs to be told...

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